Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Drifting Toward Unschooling

When I first researched homeschooling, I fell in love with the classical model presented in The Well-Trained Mind. All the books, the history, the logic, the math! Oh and don't forget the memory work, grammar, multiplication tables, geography, and spelling. This was right up my alley... my kind of learning. And while there are still many things I like about this model, I've sure thrown out a lot of the others.

I started with spelling. Bonnie is an awful speller, despite reading all the time and possessing a very high vocabulary. I pushed her in spelling last year, and we almost completed the book for her grade level. Then when it was time to pick curricula for this school year, I bought the next level, somehow in denial that it just wasn't working for us. I can push and push and get her to memorize a list of words and then get them correct on a test, but she will spell those same words incorrectly two weeks later, as well as misspell common words like "chicken." Seriously. The girl has strengths and spelling ain't one of them. There are so many things we can do with our day, what is the point of forcing the whole spelling thing? It wasn't an easy decision for me, but we stopped doing it.

So, that was my first big step away from classical education. Next was Latin. As one might gather from the term "classical education," foreign language, particularly Latin, is a big part of it. The only problem is that Bonnie really has little interest in conjugating, translating, and memorizing vocabulary. That is an understatement. And as someone who took four years of foreign language in high school followed by four college semesters in the same foreign language, I really don't have a good answer when she asks, "Mom, why do I have to do this?" Is there inherent value in speaking multiple languages? Yes! Does that have anything to do with the kind of book learning of a foreign language that is called for when Mom and Dad only speak English? Not so much. Bonnie is working with the computer program Rosetta Stone and picking up a bit of Mandarin Chinese that way, but "formal" language lessons are out for us.

One thing I have been firm with has been our math curriculum: Saxon. It is awesome. I love everything about it-- daily facts test, mental math activities, and constant review. There's only been one slight problem with it really, and that is that Bonnie cannot stand it. Last year, I brushed off her dislike of Saxon because I knew she was comparing it to the math she had in public school the year before, which hadn't challenged her in any way. This year, I think I've been so comforted by the fact that I could see her progressing math skills, that I overlooked how much Bonnie still doesn't like it. I loved math as a kid, and so did Kelly. Bonnie is very good at math and she used to love it, but Saxon is zapping the math love out of her. So we're going to try to find something that fits a little better. (Looking into Singapore Math currently.) Most importantly, I am making peace with the fact that, no matter which math curriculum we settle on, regular formal math lessons may not be a part of our plan anymore.

Am I an unschooler now? I think I might be heading in that direction. As my friend pointed out, I've pretty much been doing the whole unschooling thing already with Jack and Fred. You know, those two mud-coated heathens that spend most of their day in the woods? I've been telling myself that we'd start "kindergarten" with Jack next year, when he's more ready for it. But you know what? He may never be ready for it. And though Bonnie has learned a lot with the classical model, that doesn't mean she couldn't learn more and be happier with something else.

This seems like a natural progression to me. Aren't all homeschoolers unschoolers to some degree?


  1. I hear you on the Classical Education. It made my mouth water to imagine us recreating the boarding school experience. (Learning for the sake of being better learned than anyone else! Muh-ah ha ha!) But when I began homeschooling and got a lot of resistance on making it "just like school" the vice grips loosened. We dabbled in Mandarin. They didn't pursue it on their own. I read enough to know Saxon is only for the natural math-lover. We're using Mammoth Math. It's cheaper to download the PDF (although you then have to print off the sheets).

    1. Thanks for the suggestion of Mammoth Math. I will check it out! So far I've been working on word problems with her, and having her watch some stuff on Khan Academy (which she seems to enjoy so far.) We also like the Rocket Math app on my iPhone. She seems to be game for almost anything other than sitting and doing a complete Saxon lesson everyday.

  2. I definitely feel us drifting towards unschooling...

  3. On youtube, search: Stefan Molyneux Peaceful Parenting

    I think you will find his videos/philosophies to be beneficial and inspirational.

    x- Tiff

    1. Wow, thank you! Love his response to: Is it a valid parental right to amputate healthy body parts from children?

      "No, and this includes their brains, i.e. public school. Or church." Awesome.

  4. In a way I have unofficially been unschooling for a couple of years with my oldest. She'll come to me and ask me something specific, say about polar bears. I'll gather some info, videos, pictures and we'll sit down together and talk about it.

    I like the concept of unschooling. It tailors to your child's specific interest. I plan on doing structured homeschool courses along with one unschooling subject a day. Of course I will alter this to their needs and learning styles.